So you have food allergies.
I know what you’re thinking. Your life is over.
This was my exact thought when the reality of my food allergies hit me. It all began with a really weird year. Half my life ago, I was 15 and my whole body was broken out in a rash. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say my sister used to walk ahead of me announcing “unclean, unclean!”
Other than my rash I felt totally fine. Except when I realized that I’d had a cold for a year and couldn’t stay awake without a midday nap.
After trying everything, my mom took me to see a naturopathic doctor. The very first thing he did was give me an allergy test. What? I don’t have food allergies.
30 days later the test said differently. I was highly allergic to eggs and moderately allergic to wheat and dairy. I didn’t even know allergies to eggs were a thing.
He told me I needed to eliminate these things from my diet completely for 90 days and then see if I could add them back in. I said “thank you very much” and decided the better plan was to stop eating scrambled eggs.
For the next three years I stuck to this plan. My rash went away. The cold and fatigue didn’t. Eventually I decided enough was enough and I needed to give this “stop eating what you’re allergic to” thing a try.
90 days after completely eliminating those things from my diet I retested. I can’t even explain my utter horror when the test came back. Not only was I still allergic to eggs, wheat and dairy, but I had added soy, oats, almonds and peanuts to the mix.
What??? These were the only things I was eating now that I couldn’t have real food.
That was the lowest moment for me. Have you ever tried to get healthier only to get worse? I spent at least a month wallowing in despair and some true fear that I was always going to get worse. Then I turned a corner.
Here’s what I learned in the next year. It’s my best advice to you if you’ve recently found out you need to make some big changes to your diet. Whether it’s food allergies, a hormonal imbalance, your doctor telling you you need to _____________, or something else, this is what I recommend:
Do you feel like your life is over? You’re not wrong. There’s a good chance you’ll never again get to eat the way you used to. So mourn that. Life was simple when you didn’t have to think ahead. Life was better when a menu with 20 options meant you had 20 options. If you don’t mourn you’ll perpetually waste your energy on feeling bad for yourself. All your attempts to get better will fail if you don’t squarely face the fact that life as you knew it is over.
Someone has walked through what you’re facing. Find them. Talk to them if you can. Google, Pinterest, Amazon search your condition. Read everything you can. Become an expert on struggles like yours. I used to read and reread stories of people with allergies to remind myself that what I was dealing with really was a thing. It wasn’t in my head. And it wasn’t hopeless.
3. Go big.
This is not a time for moderation. Sure, even a little improvement is better, but what I’ve found is that when you’re facing health problems, moderation is not the answer. Often when your body has been dealing with a problem, you’ve been unknowingly adding to that problem for years upon years. Slight adjustments are not what turns the ship around. So stop trying for better and just do what is best for your body. Don’t know what that is? Return to point 2! Don’t want to? Return to point 1.
4. Get help.
My most encouraging moment after I found I was allergic to even more foods was when my cousin Brittney cooked me dinner. She created a few recipes I loved eating and those few recipes helped me see that maybe I could enjoy food again one day. So maybe it’s asking a friend to scour Pinterest and send you recipes. Maybe your spouse will join you on your crazy new food plan. The best way to get help is to be honest about how you’re feeling. The people around you will find ways to make it better. Guaranteed.
5. Stick it out.
Whatever you decide to do to fix the problem, commit to doing it for 90 days. I know that if I say “30 days” you are far more likely to do it, but 30 days is not a commitment. It’s a trial. 90 days is a quarter of a year. It’s the length you need to actually see if your body is responding well. Most importantly, 90 days will get you to the point where you’re used to doing hard things to make your body feel better. If your plan isn’t working after 90 days, you’ll be ready to do the next hard thing. By this time, hard, right things are your habit. That’s what it takes to move from suffering to surviving to doing quite well with your condition.
This is my best advice for you, now a parting cheer:
There is life on the other side of these adjustments. It can get better. There’s reason to try. I’ve been down this path and so have countless others! You can do this my friend, trust me, you can!